It’s 2017, which means that 2007 is just about old enough to be part of another era.
If you don’t believe me, just listen to pop music from the time. That’s right, a decade ago people listened to music on the radio where the kick wasn’t the most compressed part in the mix. Can you imagine that?
It’s hard to believe that this drivel even made it onto the radio when most SoundCloud producers these days have better beats. But what you have to remember is that this was 2007, and kids weren’t making beats on their laptops like they do today. Producers had less pressure to raise the bar, and people were more easily impressed by mediocre production.
It’s true—pop music is objectively more polished now than it was ten years ago. Compare Britney Spears’ “Gimme More” from 2007 to her newest single “Slumber Party” from just last year. The latter is rich with spidery hi-hats and lush reverb, while the former consists of a kick, clap, and bass synth that I could assemble in five minutes.
However, with this simplicity comes an honest glimpse of what the 2000’s were really like.
“I Am… Sasha Fierce” by Beyonce is a prime example of this kind of album. Although it is not as consistent as her more recent work, its production style and tender vibe make it an exciting little time capsule for an era that I associate with middle school dances, the color electric green, and the song “Boots with the Fur” by Flo Rida.
The opening song on “Sasha Fierce,” “If I Were A Girl,” makes me feel like I’m walking down the streets of Brooklyn on a warm autumn afternoon as an extra in the movie “Akeelah and the Bee.” Everything about this track, from the wistful acoustic guitar picking to the tight snare sample, brings me back to a simpler time when the biggest thing on my mind was Worksheet 4.2 for my Pre-Algebra class.
Another thing I really appreciate about “Sasha Fierce” is its often sing-songy melodies. The power anthem “Halo” is a great example of this. I’ve noticed that melodies from pop music in the 2000s made more jumps, particularly to the sixth-scale degree, when compared to melodies in pop music now, which tend to hang on one or two notes over a changing chord progression. The difference is like comparing a Bach melody to a somber monastic chant. The former feels pure and cheerful while the latter feels darker and more foreboding. Call it a reflection of our blissful ignorance towards societal problems in the 2000s that has shifted to social-media-fueled existential depression.
If you listen to Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and then listen to “Sasha Fierce,” you’ll detect a profound difference in the richness of the records. But this is a part of the appeal “Sasha Fierce.” When I listen to the beats on “If I Were a Girl” and “Disappear,” I imagine Beyonce’s production crew leaning back on reclining chairs in a production studio in 2007, laughing to themselves as they explore exciting new production techniques that are now commonplace. With this comes a sense of beautiful naivete which manifests in the quirky snare pattern on “Disappear” and the stupidly simple synth line on “Broken Hearted Girl.”
Most of all though, “Sasha Fierce” provides us with a thrilling and valuable lens of what it meant to be alive during the 2000s—a time when the world was burning but we were just a little too oblivious to it to be sad.